by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. After a cosy two matches at home, the Sounders are sporting their first two match win streak of the season! However, the side must leave behind Occidental Avenue and our top of the league support to travel to The Fairgrounds in Ohio for a showdown under the lights against MLS founding club, Columbus Crew SC. We play the teams from the other regional conference but once a year. But I have some news for you fellow supporters in Green. And the news, she be good. A win tonight would have us on 19 points, and likely back in the top half of the table. So we find ourselves at a bit of a crossroads. A win would demonstrate consistency and the galvanising of the side, whereas a loss now would suggest continued unpredictability in the overall trend. We have it in us to make a thundering statement tonight and in the confines of someone else’s park. Our band of seasoned veterans sprinkled with academy graduates vs. their seasoned veterans and a trio of goalkeepers just out of diapers. At 13 matches played already, we’ve played nearly half the season. So what’s it to be? Frankly, I like our chances. Join up with your mates at viewing parties in Seattle and throughout the country. If you have the means and inclination, join up with our Green Family in Ohio and test the supportership of the Crew SC in a battle of raw sound and will. Before the kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!
The Good News
We’ve escaped the depths of second from bottom in the league (21st) and find ourselves in the midtable cusp area of 17th place. Don’t let that get you down. Our opponent Columbus are in 9th place and are 10 points adrift of top boys, Toronto FC. Although we are eight places below them in the table, we are only 3 points adrift of Columbus. We’ve just won two matches in a row for the first time this season and the momentum seems to be in our favour. All-time we’ve only lost three times out of 11 to Columbus. Even better, when playing them in Ohio, we’ve only lost once. Still better than that, in five matches played away at Columbus, we’ve only conceded four goals. Columbus has lost their last two matches in a row, including a 5:0 pasting on the shores of Lake Ontario last Friday at league-leading Toronto FC.
The Bad News
Both sides have only two wins from their last five matches. Columbus has only lost twice at home this season in eight matches, whereas the Sounders have only one win on the road and have lost four of seven. We are taking roughly the same percentage of points from our common opponents, so there’s no clear advantage shown either way. Our goals for and against margins are extremely close, with Columbus scoring 0.12 goal/match more than we are, and Columbus conceding 0.26 goals/match more than us. Based on the sample size of the current season, these numbers demonstrate no clear edge to either side. With Columbus’ Sauro out recovering from surgery, this temporarily removes a player, who played in some pretty tough leagues, out of the equation for tonight’s match. Bruin and Wingo are still out, and Torres wasn’t on the bench last week, so even though he’s listed as a matchday decision I don’t expect to see him. This is mitigated, of course, by Svensson’s versatility switching between midfield and centre-half. Kovar was on the bench last week, which makes me wonder if he’s closer to finding his way back into the team. Alonso is listed as a matchday decision with stiffness of the quadriceps, and such as the gaffer, Brian Schmetzer, may decide to rest him. This could be mitigated by having a number of players that can deputise in a holding midfield role, but deputising is not the same as a healthy Alonso in the team. The worst news of all is that when you look at the numbers, there’s almost nothing separating these two teams.
Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – Steffen, 22, is the likely man to start between the sticks for our yellow-clad rivals. He isn’t to be too underestimated as he played 14 times for SC Freiburg Reserves. He was produced by Philadelphia Union, Freiburg, and the NCAA’s Maryland – one of the better university football programmes, and he’s played 30 times for USA at youth levels. Still, he’s young, and young goalkeepers make mistakes. His understudies are Ketterer, 23, recently drafted and hasn’t played a stitch of professional football, and Stuver, 26, with over 30 appearances, but nearly all of them in the PDL. Three goalkeepers just out of diapers. Heavy edge to Frei and the Sounders.
Defence – Afful, 30, part of Colombus’ Ghanian connection, was produced by Feyenoord, playing nearly 150 times for their Academy side. Every club he’s played for has played him a lot, and that’s saying something. He’s played 53 times for Columbus, over 450 times as a pro, and 65 caps for Ghana. Næss, 24, has played 121 times as a pro and built his foundation in Norwegian football where he played nearly 100 matches. Has played 26 times for Columbus. Mensah, 26, who wears “Jonathan” on the back of his shirt, has played in two African countries, and four European ones. Add to this 57 caps for Ghana. He is a 2017 signing for Columbus and has played nine times for them. Francis, 26, has 172 appearances as a pro. He was produced by Saprissa and has five caps for Costa Rica. Before signing with Columbus, he had played 68 times for Herediano and has played 77 times for the Crew.
Midfield – Trapp, 24, has played 107 times as a pro, and all of them for only Columbus. He played 24 times for USA youth sides. Hansen, 22, as mentioned before started out with Sounders U-23s. He has only 20 appearances as a pro but has played 11 times for Columbus, which suggests they see something grand in him. Hansen is eligible to play for either United States or Denmark. Higuain, 32, the old pro, 361 appearances, with 97 goals. Produced by River Plate. Has played at Independiente, Club America, Besiktas, and Colon. On a DP contract with Columbus. Wears the #10 shirt, and is the deadliest midfield striker in the side. He’s played 136 times for the Crew scoring 43 goals. So we may not like him, but we’d better respect his quality. Meram, 28, has 168 appearances and 31 goals for Columbus. Add to this the Michigan-born man’s 22 caps and two goals for Iraq. Worked his way up to professional level from Yavapai Community College in the NJCAA. Respect. Manneh, 22, is an old face we remember from his four-year tenure with Vancouver Whitecaps. 129 appearances and 49 goals as a pro. He’s just moved to Columbus this year and has played four times in the first team.
Forward – Ola Kamara, 27, is the lone striker in Columbus’ setup. 229 appearances and 83 goals. Born in Oslo and with seven caps for Norway, Kamara has been successful at scoring, but it seemed only with Norwegian clubs. Produced by Frigg and Stabæk. Moved to Columbus in 2016 where he’s played in 39 matches scoring 23 goals. Columbus is the first club outside Norway where he has produced consistent scoring form. So played tonnes of Euro football, and has re-honed his fine scoring edge. Dangerous.
Columbus forward, Adam Jahn, began his career with Washington Crossfire (5 matches/3 goals). Columbus forward, Niko Hansen, began his career with the Sounders U-23s (9 matches/2 goals).
Selections for Last Match
Columbus: Steffen, Afful, Næss, Mensah, Francis, Trapp, Hansen, Higuain, Meram, Manneh, Kamara.
Bench: Stuver (gk), Raitala, Williams, Crognale, Jahn, Artur, Finlay.
Sounders FC: Frei, Evans, Svensson, Marshall, Jones, Shipp, Alonso, Roldan, Dempsey, Morris, Lodeiro.
Bench: Miller (gk), Tolo, Fernandez, Delem, Kovar, Adekoya, Fisher.
OUT: Sauro (surgery), Swanson (surgery).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Finlay (knee).
OUT: Wingo (ankle), Bruin (elbow).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Kovar (groin), Torres (hamstring), Alonso (quad).
None suspended from either side.
On 27th August 2011, Columbus Crew visited Royal Brougham Park and got a 6:2 pasting for their trouble. However, Columbus defender/midfielder Josh Gardner, who played for the Sounders from 2007-08, performed a rather unusual feat. He scored for both teams, scoring for the Crew in the 73rd minute to make it 5:2, and then scoring against his own side just a minute later. I doubt our hosts will be so even-handed this time around. Gardner was waived by Sporting KC in March of 2014. This ended his 56 match MLS career.